Spring Budget 2020: Regional property industry reaction

March 11, 2020

Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s spending commitments on major infrastructure projects received the thumbs up from the region’s industry – but the fact that the West of England was again overlooked in favour of the ‘powerhouses’ of the North and Midlands did not go unnoticed.

Tim Davis, head of property agents Cushman & Wakefield’s Bristol office, pictured, said with election promises and the coronavirus dominating the agenda, the Budget promised a huge fiscal stimulus for the next five years. 

“The highlights from an infrastructure perspective include a focus on roads, rail, affordable housing, digital connectivity and research and development,” he said.

“However, from a regional perspective the priorities are still focused very much on Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Northern Powerhouse, giving the impression that the South West is doing OK so does not need special attention.”

He also said Budget measures around the retail and leisure sectors showed the need for a full-scale reform of business rates.

“The fact that the Chancellor keeps applying sticking plasters to the business rates system, this time in widespread reliefs to smaller businesses in the retail and leisure sectors, only serves to highlight the need for fundamental reform to reflect the rate of change in the market, which will only be the hastened by the public’s behaviour in response to the coronavirus,” he said.

“It will only provide a short-term impact on town centres and will do little to address the causes of the decline of the high street.”

Keith Cooney, national head of business rates service line at agency Knight Frank, which has offices in Bristol and Bath, also criticised the Chancellor for a lack of action over business rates.

He said Mr Sunak had “ignored large businesses and offered them no business rates relief from this £29bn tax burden”.

He added: “This is despite the fact that he recognises the impact on business and has provided support by exempting all retailers, and businesses in the leisure and tourist sectors provided their assessments are less than rateable value £51,000.

“Although the announcement of yet another business rates review is welcome this is no comfort for the large businesses who have been ignored, despite employing thousands and are equally vulnerable to the current outbreak.”

The £1bn Building Safety Fund to remove unsafe cladding from all UK buildings above 18m announced it the Budget was welcomed by

David Westgate, group chief executive of Keynsham-headquartered estate agents and property group, pictured, had called on the Chancellor to take action over dangerous cladding before the Budget. 

He welcomed the announcement of a £1bn Building Safety Fund on behalf of leaseholders living in high-rise blocks around the UK.

“The key issue, as ever, is how quickly the funds can be called upon and if there are any specific criteria that must be met for developments to be eligible.

“The funds have officially been made available but the logistics have yet to emerge. In the meantime, many people’s lives have been put on hold as they cannot secure mortgage finance and they cannot sell their homes.”

He said it was also vital that the new fund covered rendered insulation as well as combustible cladding.

“In our experience, the cladding issues we are seeing around the UK could soon be surpassed by the problem of rendered insulation,” he said.

“If we are to genuinely make every apartment and housing block in this country safe then the newly announced fund needs to cover all materials that are deemed to be unsafe, not just cladding.”


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